You may want to be sitting down while you watch/listen to/read and then share this article. It represents yet another violation of civil rights by Orange County and New York politicians who have chosen a well-funded minority group with a history of questionable behavior over the vast majority of residents. You’ll hear that your civil rights matter less than theirs.
After having denied the request by several individuals to act as outside election inspectors in the Village of Kiryas Joel, the Orange County Board of Elections reversed the decision on August 22, 2014 amid public pressure and media exposure. They agreed to assign one inspector per table to help ensure fair and legal elections. The victory would be short lived.
On September 4, 2014, Election Commissioner Susan Bahren admitted that the outside election inspector agreement would be rescinded. On September 3, we already knew this because the leaders of Kiryas Joel had been told in advance that this would happen, and word of that leaked.
It is another example of a government agency bowing to the political pressure to allow the leadership of this community to achieve its means. It also means that Orange County, NY, has been disenfranchised of fair and legal elections. Of course, we recorded this conversation so that the public would have a right to know. The following is a recorded conversation between Orange County Board of Elections Commissioner, Susan Bahren, and United Monroe Chairperson, Emily Convers, which took place at 11:55 AM EDT on 5 September, 2014. This recording is fully compliant with New York State Law.
Emily Convers (Convers): Emily speaking…Hello, is this Sue?
Susan Bahren (Bahren): Yes.
Convers: Hi, it’s Emily.
Bahren: Oh, hi…are you on speakerphone? (pause) Oh, because there’s like a delay.
Convers: Oh, yeah yeah, it’s my speaker, I’m sorry, I’m in the car. Bahren: Oh that’s ok. I just wasn’t sure. I didn’t hear you right away. Now I got it., ok. There is a delay…just so you know that.
Convers: Oh, ok, you mean it sounds…is there like an echo?
Bahren: No, it takes a little bit for your voice to get…to start talking..
Convers: Oh, I gotcha, I gotcha…ok. So, I heard through the grapevine that we are not going to be allowed to poll inspect in KJ.
Bahren: I don’t know how the grapevine got it, but it is true there have been letters that were sent out yesterday that should hopefully be there by…by today.
Convers: Ok, so what happened?
Bahren: Umm…it’s with, it has to do…majoritively with…the cultural issues and the historic issues that we have not had outside workers there before.
Bahren: And that’s the…and that’s the whole…
Convers: Did this…did this decision come from like above… like was this the county attorney?
Bahren: No, I actually…I actually…I actually made the decision based on other information that I received. So I can’t divulge the information that I received, but that’s the…thats the information that I…
Convers: That you based your decision on?
Convers: So you received information and then changed your mind but you said it’s based on cultural issues and the fact that it hasn’t been done previously?
Convers: But what about all the things that happened last year in the polling location?
Bahren: Well, we’re going to have…we are going to have two, we’re going to have two coordinators, non village coordinators in the polling place…
Convers: You know..
Bahren: …to handle those issues…
Convers: I just want to remind you that you had two non KJ coordinators last year as well.
Convers: And that, it was a disaster.
Bahren: We’ve done…we’ve done additional training…with…these two different coordinators and we have a different coordinator, we didn’t have a coordinator at Aishes, so we have a different coordinator. So that was one of the requests that was in your correspondence and Mr. Egan’s correspondence, so we did…we did do that, and they are from outside of the…they are from outside of the district which was a request on…
Convers: Yeah, you know you and I both know this isn’t going to go over well. Like this is going to be…there’s going to be a terrible response to this.
Bahren: But that’s part of…this is, this is part of what your…you know…what your request was.
Convers: Yeah, but the major part of our request though was to have someone at every table, which you initially agreed to.
Bahren: Correct. Correct…
Convers: So, that was our major, major…we wanted to have people, and these are Monroe residents, they’re not from another town. I mean Kiryas Joel is in our town. We’ve had poll inspectors from Town of Monroe inspect in Village of Monroe or Village of Harriman locations.
Bahren: Well, that’s the Town of Monroe, though.
Convers: No, but KJ IS the town of Monroe.
Convers: So, you got, let’s say you’ve got someone in the Town who lives in the Town of Monroe. They live on Mombasha Rd. And they ask to be a poll inspector and they’re assigned a Village of Monroe inspection location. The Village of Monroe isn’t going to go crazy and say “You live in the Town of Monroe, you can’t come here. You can’t poll inspect in my village. I’m a Village of Monroe resident and I don’t want a Town of Monroe resident inspecting in my village.” You would never hear that happen. Ever. This is a really specific situation here. And the fact is that Kiryas Joel leadership are putting an immense amount of pressure on the county, we know this. We know Langdon Chapman has called you, we know that.
Bahren: Um, he has not. And I will…I am going to…I am, I am going to refute that to the end. I have not spoken to him at all.
Convers: Ok, do you remember when I came in with Dennis the day to drop off his petitions? When Dennis and I were there in the morning to drop off his petitions?
Convers: You told me that morning that you got a call from the County Attorney.
Bahren: Right, but there’s many county attorneys.
Convers: So which county attorney did you get called from?
Bahren: I’m not going to disclose who my representative is. Because I…I…it’s just from the County Attorney’s Office. And that’s what it is.
Convers: So the County Attorney’s Office called you.
Convers: But what does that mean, though? Why can’t I know that? Why can’t I know who’s giving these orders so I can know who to call and who to talk to about this situation? If it’s obviously coming from above you, I feel as a citizen I should have the right to at least address the correct person who’s giving this instruction.
Bahren: I’d have to find that out…to see whether or not…I’d really have to find that out, but I’m not at liberty to disclose that at this particular point in time.
Convers: Wow. I just feel like this is a real lack of transparency. It’s like a cover up. It’s feeling really wrong to me, Sue. Like in my bones, deep down in my bones and my gut, this feels incredibly wrong. Doesn’t it feel wrong to you? Somehow? Somewhere? I know you’re in a position, you’re an appointed commissioner, you’ve been there a very long time, I get it. I understand you answer to people who are responsible for appointing you and keeping you in that job and it’s important to you to keep doing what you’re doing. But somewhere in you, there’s got to be something in you that understands this is really wrong. I’ve got to appeal to that piece of you. I’ve got to. This is craziness going on here. I mean, this is civil rights stuff, Sue! You don’t want to be…
Bahren: It’s really, it’s really not…it’s more their civil…no really, Emily, if you go back in the law, it’s really more, and I really have to say…I have to say this…it’s more their civil rights than yours.
Convers: Why! Why is that the case?
Bahren: Because it goes back to the cultural and the language issues in polling places with regard to even the Puerto Rican language being spoken in places and us having to have interpreters there, it goes back…
Convers: Sue. We were asking to have one person out of four. One out of four inspectors. There would be three Hasidic, Yiddish-speaking inspectors at every table.
Bahren: What’s going to happen with that one person who wasn’t going to understand what was going on? And then there was going to be issues…
Convers: What?!? Why would there be issues? We just, I’m sorry, can you repeat that in English? The KJ women speak very good English. I’ve spoken with them.
Bahren: I know they do. I know they do.
Convers: So if I needed a translation, I’m sitting next to three KJ women at the table. And I need a translation. “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand what that man said, would you mind repeating it for me?” that would take all of two seconds and she’d be happy to do it. I’ve had plenty of interactions with KJ women, at the doctors’ offices in town, at the supermarket, in KJ handing out flyers in the last month. And I’ve had no communication problems whatsoever with any of these women. None. So I can’t see that’s a valid argument, Sue. This sounds to me like…it really, it reeks! It reeks of political power putting pressure on a government agency to ensure that they can do whatever the hell they want in that polling location like what happened last year. And we saw it. I was ushered out of that polling location by David Green. Ushered out!
Bahren: you didn’t have a poll watcher…
Convers: I had a poll watcher certificate in my hand!
Bahren: I know, I know, ok…
Convers: It was in my hand! I walked in, in hand. He rushed over to me before even asking me what I was doing. And he said “you have to get out of here.” That’s the first thing he said. You’ve got to get out of here. I said, “Why? I’m here to poll watch.” “You have to leave.” He ran back across the room to where Langdon Chapman was standing and then the sheriff came over to me and said, “I’m sorry ma’am, you’re going to have to leave.” Did I want to fight with a sheriff in the middle of a banquet hall in KJ? No. I walked out. I wasn’t going to cause a scene. I’m a decent human being. I wasn’t going to make any problems, but it was illegal what happened, and that’s just one incident out of about a thousand incidents that we have recorded in affidavits and on video affidavits. This is an extreme situation, Sue. You are…you’re a Commissioner of the Board of Elections. It’s your duty to ensure a fair election. And you’re taking that away from the people of Monroe by disallowing us to be in KJ as inspectors that day. And I’m sorry, you can’t cry cultural crap with me. This is ridiculous. It’s discrimination, we’re being discriminated against because we are not KJ citizens and we are not Hasidic. And that is not OK. And this is going to get bigger, and it’s going to get worse. I really…I really recommend you to whoever convinced you to change your mind and suggest that this is not the right thing to do. Because we’re going to Albany. And we’re going to the FBI, and this is going to get massive.
Convers: If I were you, I wouldn’t be doing this right now. It’s not going to be…it’s going to be a battle.
Bahren: OK. I will let Sharon know.
Bahren: I will let them know.
Convers: Who’s Sharon? Is that the county attorney? Sharon Worthy Spiegel?
Convers: Ok. Thank you.
More background to this story can be found through the following links:
- News12 HudsonValley story on original decision
- Full recorded transcript of conversation with Susan Bahren, 8.18.2014
- Voter Intimidation in Kiryas Joel Over Monroe Town Supervisor Race